I pulled my rig into the stop and parked it towards the back, the only empty spot. I lowered myself out of the cab and trudged through the driving rain towards the dimly glowing neon sign. It was missing a few letters, but I didn't care.
I nudged my butt onto an empty bar stool. A big man with a grease stained apron looked me over.
"Why so glum, friend?"
"The Astros stink this year," I replied moodily.
"Didn't they just win a game?"
"Yeah. I guess. Doug Fister threw pretty good, but it's the first start that he's made that hasn't been a disaster. The whole rotation has been like that."
The bartender grunted and slid me over a pint of cheap bubbly swill. I downed it. He gave me a look of undisguised pity.
"That Jose Altuve guy is pretty good though, right?"
"Yeah," I said despondently. "Hit another home run tonight. He's headed towards one of the best personal seasons in living memory. I wish I could make myself care."
"Don't be that way, man. How'd the bullpen do tonight?"
"Well...." I thought. "They didn't implode. For a change."
He slapped the bar, hard. "Well, there ya go! Silver lining! And they won! Cheer up man, April's over."
"Thank heavens for that," I said with feeling. "Give me some really greasy food that will probably kill me, willya? I want to get really bad food poisoning, to cover up the pain of the Astros' last month."
At this point, the burly greaser next to me turned. "Stop feeling sorry for yo'self," he said. "Some of us have it way worse." I noticed he was missing his left nostril.
"Sorry, I didn't notice your nose. And here I was complaining about my baseball team."
"Nose? Hell man, I don't care about that. I'm a Washington Nationals fan, but my family all hales from Seattle."
"Ouch!" I said. That really brought things into perspective for me.
"What else good happened in tonight's game?" Asked the barkeep, sliding me another brewski and obviously trying to talk me out of my funk.
"Tony Sipp, Will Harris, and Luke Gregerson combined for three shut-out innings. Come to think of it, Harris has a 0.77 ERA, and Gregerson hasn't blown a save yet this year."
"Good! Who got the other run?"
"Colby Rasmus on a sac fly. Good grief, he has been incredible this year."
"And those flowing locks are amazing," contributed the man next to me, wistfully watching Sports Center on the flickering and yellowed CRT TV mounted in the corner. The barman and I looked at him oddly, then decided to ignore his comment.
The bartender leaned into the bar and looked me in the eye. I noticed that the other eye somehow kept an eye on the broken jukebox on the other side of the joint. It was disconcerting, to say the least.
"I'll tell ya something." He said. I refocused on the eye that was looking at me. "Lots of somethings." He hocked something nasty into the bar sink, then continued. "I been running this bar for seventy three years." To me, he looked no older than a well-used forty-five, and I said so.
"Thanks. Anyway, I seen baseball fans come and baseball fans go. You got one right talented team there in Houston. But they're young, you know? Very young. You have to be patient with their youngness."
"I don't want to," I snapped, suddenly feeling tears spring to my eyes. I whispered, "I've waited so long.....so long."
"Son, put April behind you. You know that nonsense about April showers? Well, all I knows is that there is five more long months of baseball ahead of you. Your team ain't out of it yet. And if they are? Enjoy the ride. It's baseball man, it's still a game, and it's still fun. Have a beer. Eat a corn dog. If they don't go to the playoffs, well you can bet that you ain't more disappointing than them. There's always next year. And the next."
"Good things come to those who wait?" I asked sarcastically through my tears.
"Nah. I'm just saying. You can enjoy it now. You can hope for them to start winning again." He reached out and slug-bugged me on the shoulder with a toothless grin. "Hey, they're off to a good start in May, what?"
"Well hold on to that, buddy. Now you owe me seven bucks for the beer and ten for the advice. Pay up or I'll have Guido over there turn you into an accordion."